Greetings and/or salutations, people! Welcome to io9's (occasionally weekly) mail column, where I solve the mysteries of the world of nerd-dom to you, both fictional and otherwise. This week: What was Elektra’s deal in The Defenders? Is an evil BB-8 droid a good thing or a bad thing? And, most importantly, who’s to blame for Game of Thrones season seven?
And don’t forget to send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Untie the League
What happens if Justice League suck as bad as Batman v Superman does? Do the other DC movies get scrapped? Do they try another new DC [movie continuity], or do they have to wait a while so people don’t get confused? How long would it take for the taste of JL to wash out of people’s mouths?
Let’s take a step back and remember that “bomb” is a relative term here. For all its faults, Batman v Superman made a ton of money—$873 million worldwide—a solid, respectable profit. The problem is that WB knows it could have made a lot more if it had been better, and fans had actually liked it. Then the studio miraculously got Wonder Woman right, so it knows that it has the power to make a true, Marvel Studios-level superhero blockbuster, even if it has no real idea how it managed it. Since these movies still make money either way (for now), there’s no impetus for Warner Bros. to stop churning them out, hoping to hit the jackpot again.
To wonder if WB will reset the DC Extended Universe is to wonder if it actually has a cinematic universe in the first place. Aquaman is much too close to being finished for the WB to back out of now, and Wonder Woman 2 is as a safe a bet as there could be. But what does it actually have in the works that’s even close to definitely getting made? The next film on the schedule is Shazam in 2019, which just announced a director this summer, but also made the inexplicable decision to save Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam for his own film later. Neither Cyborg nor Green Lantern Corps. have managed to land a director (or keep them) yet—hell, only Cyborg has a star—and they’re both ostensibly coming out in 2020? Not likely.
Now, here’s all the DC films that Warner Bros. has announced that aren’t even on the schedule yet:
- The Batman, which was originally announced in 2014, and yet new director Matt Reeves said he was completely starting the movie over from scratch this past summer
- The Flash, which has had Ezra Miller attached to star since October 2014, but still doesn’t have a director and was suddenly retitled Flashpoint at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con
- Batgirl, by the suddenly less beloved Joss Whedon
- Justice League Dark, which was announced in 2013 but literally hired someone to write yet another brand-new script just a few months ago
- Lobo, announced in 2009, just got a new writer in 2016
- A Joker and Harley Quinn movie
- A Nightwing movie
- That insane “gritty” Elseworlds Joker origin movie from Martin Scorsese
- Theoretically Black Adam, a Deadshot solo movie, and Suicide Squad 2
- And there’s always Man of Steel 2 and Justice League 2
All these movies were either announced so long ago that we have no reason to believe they’ll actually get made in the next five years, or are so new that there’s little chance they’ll survive until gestation. Since 2013, WB has made four DCEU films: Man of Steel, Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman, and Wonder Woman. Do you really think all 13 of these movies will actually make it to theaters? I’m guessing five, max, and it’ll take at least 10 years.
Oh, and if somehow Justice League is a smash hit and everything gets greenlit? Well, then Ben Affleck is still obviously, adorably desperate to abandon this nonsense, and Flashpoint almost certainly will, by its very name, reset the DC movie-verse anyway. And then there’s WB’s astoundingly insane decision to maybe make DC superhero movies that aren’t in continuity with the rest of the films, for maximum audience confusion and absence of synergy.
The bottom line is that WB is basically so terrified it’s going to screw these movies up again, that it’s waiting for Justice League and Aquaman to come out, and let the studio know if it’s on the right track or not. Until then (and, if we’re being honest, probably long after then) it’s going to keep throwing anything it can think of against the DC movie wall. The occasional movie will somehow come out, and no one can be sure if it’ll be part of the cobbled-together Extended Universe or not. Not even Warner Bros.
About 80 People, Give or Take:
1) Are Benioff and Weiss actually bad showrunners who have coasted on George R.R. Martin’s work?
2) Why was the decision made to shorten seasons seven and eight when the show could have clearly benefitted from more time?
3) Will season eight have the same problems?
1) No. I know Weiss and Benioff have barely done anything else in Hollywood beyond Game of Thrones, which seems pretty incriminating. I also know that it feels like the two of them fully abandoned the books this season, and then calamity and problems immediately ensued.
But let’s remember that Weiss and Benioff have made six good to great seasons of Game of Thrones, and there’s a hell of a lot more to showrunning than just putting the books onscreen. More importantly, the two have been going off script from the books from the very beginning, from that wonderful, iconic conversation between Cersei and Robert Baratheon in season one right through that magnificent season six finale where Cersei finally achieved everything on her vision board. They had run out of book material for various storylines starting back in season four, and yet we were good straight through six.
Have poor choices been made this season? Absolutely, but that brings us to…
2) ...the shortened season, which I think is responsible for most of the season’s problems. More time would have allowed more characters more moments, more explanations for some of the bizarre things that happened (see below), and just more breathing room to give the various storylines more weight. It still wouldn’t have solved the godawful mess that was the Sansa-Arya storyline, but it likely did mean Weiss and Benioff needed to figure out a way to kill Littlefinger sooner rather than later, and the only way they could think of to kill him with some drama was by turning Arya into a crazy person.
As for who decided to shortened the seasons, I sincerely doubt Weiss and Benioff wanted to. Game of Thrones is their baby, and they knew they were in for a long haul, assuming the show didn’t get canceled. I doubt they were bored right at the beginning of the series’ epic conclusion. Certainly HBO didn’t want shortened seasons; they’d be happy to run Game of Thrones until the heat death of the universe.
That leaves the actors, and remember, seven years is a long time for an actor to play a single character, especially actors of the caliber of Lena Headey and Peter Dinklage. I bet anything Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke at minimum are dying to be done with it in order to move on to new projects. The actors all had to sign new contracts for season seven and eight, and for many of them, the show needed them more than vice versa. I imagine these two shortened seasons was all they could get out of (one or more of) the biggest stars, forcing them to try and stuff everything they hoped to do in 20 episodes into 13. Which resulted in problems like…
What the hell was the opening scene with the Unsullied and Dothraki waiting outside of some castle and how did we teleport from there to the first meeting ever of the major players? I have scoured the net trying to figure out what the scene was and no one has covered it.
Although it wasn’t spelled out, it’s actually pretty easy to put two and two together here. The big truce meeting was at the Dragonpit, right by King’s Landing. Obviously, Cersei was not going to remove her army and Euron’s fleet from the capital for these little talks, because that would have been dumb as hell, and Cersei is not dumb. However, Daenerys would also not just come to King’s Landing, right smack in the middle of Cersei’s forces, without her own troops. So she had Grey Worm, the Unsullied, and the Dothraki surround the city, so if things went bad her forces were there to bail her out/kick Lannister ass.
The better question is, how did the Unsullied get from being trapped in Casterly Rock with no food and surrounded by Lannister troops, to hanging outside King’s Landing looking totally fine? You know, I pride myself on being able to figure out completely unsupported ways to fill the plot holes of just about anything, but I have no clue here. I have to assume there is a deleted scene that shows the Unsullied breaking free—maybe one that didn’t even get filmed—that was cut for time. But this continuity error is definitely one of season seven’s most grievous sins.
I have read every io9 article on The Defenders and I can see no one has asked what is, to me, the most annoying question about Elektra in The Defenders: What are her motives after she remembers who she is and who Matt is? She never ever states why she wants control of The Hand, or what she thinks about being the Black Sky, or why she needed to kill Alexandra, or, MOST pressing, why she is still “evil” after her memory returns? Like...why she fighting The Defenders? Why she fighting Matt? You’d think she’d team up with her ol’ buddy and fight the Hand, no?
I just don’t get it. I think there’s a lot to *not get* about her treatment this season but this feels the worst. I liked her in Daredevil, but this made me hate her because she was just being *eeviiilll* for the sake of it. Thoughts?
Being resurrected by an evil ninja cult using some kind of weird dragon ichor banned by the good monks of K’un-Lun seems like a legitimate reason for turning evil to me. The process undoubtedly amplified Elektra’s dark side, which, not incidentally, she talked about all the time in Daredevil season two. In fact, I think we can safely guess that being resurrected by the goop amplified anyone’s dark side, which is why the Hand leaders were so evil, and why the K’un-Lun folks decided it needed to be locked away in the first place.
I’m much more confused about what the point of the Black Sky was at all. Sigourney Weaver used the last of the Hand’s resurrection smoothie to bring Elektra back because she was going to be so important and such a big deal, when in fact she was just another good martial artist in a giant secret cult of good martial artists. Why bother?
Playing the Long Game
Isn’t GRR Martin in the best possible position right now? If everyone loves how the end of Game of Thrones plays out on HBO, he just puts that story into novel form and publishes it. But if everyone hates HBO’s depiction, can’t Martin just say the show was never going to be the story the books told, tweak his story to address criticisms, and come out on top with the “author’s” or definitive edition of the story?
Well… he could, I guess, but that would necessitate George R.R. Martin being more worried about pleasing fans and selling books instead of telling his story—which he obviously isn’t, because if he was he would have churned out a mediocre Winds of Winter back in 2014.
I talked a couple of weeks ago about how GRRM has the option to change his mind on how the story of A Song of Ice and Fire would end, but let me qualify that—he may still be figuring the specifics out, but he absolutely knows how it’s going to end. Whether the TV show ending sucks or is praised as the greatest fantasy conclusion in any medium, his ending won’t change based on the reaction to the show, or the show at all. It’s going to be significantly different anyway because of all the dozens of extra factors the books have (Faegon, etc.) as I mentioned last week.
Again, over the course of time before the final volume is finished, he may change his mind about how certain storylines will proceed or end. But he’s had the story’s conclusion in mind likely from the very beginning, and whatever the show does or doesn’t do won’t change that.
I know you disdain Green Lantern, but why has DC continued to labor under the idea that the Green rings = willpower, when they should CLEARLY be bravery? I’d argue Geoff Johns knows the most about Green Lantern mythology, considering how many modern stories just take off from material he laid down.
For the record, I’ve always loved Green Lantern, because it is CLEARLY a fun power to have.
Green power rings should absolutely run on bravery, and here’s the problem: Hal Jordan was introduced as Green Lantern in DC Showcase #22 in 1959. It contained his whole origin story, where Abin Sur crashed on Earth and gave him the power ring, but the reason Abin Sur (or, rather, the ring itself) selected Hal is because he 1) had no fear and 2) was honest. The limit on the ring was that it needed to be recharged periodically like a battery. But what Hal found out is that the ring would do anything he willed it to do.
I don’t want to blow your mind, but it wasn’t long before DC realized “my batteries might die!” didn’t allow for a lot of sustained dramatic tension, Thus the focus shifted from the necessity of the battery to the willpower of Hal Jordan. I can’t find the exact date when willpower was specifically referenced in a Green Lantern comic, but I do know by 1965, in Justice League of America #36, Hal was hit with a disease that sapped his willpower, rendering him powerless, so by that point Green Lantern’s powers were definitely more about willpower than the lantern recharge.
So that’s at least 40 years of Green power rings running on willpower, before Geoff Johns brings back Hal Jordan (who had been evil and then dead for a while) in 2005’s Rebirth, and started setting up the whole emotional color spectrum of Ring/Lantern users. But you can’t retcon something that has been so fundamental—and basic—to the character; it would be like chasing his name from Green Lantern to Green Ring. It feels wrong, even if Green Lanterns carry their damn lanterns for five minutes every dozen issues.
So yes, bravery is an infinitely better, more appropriate idea based not only on the emotional spectrum concept and various lantern corps that have defined modern Green Lantern. And it’ll never be changed.
Dropping the Ball Droid
Is BB-H8 the best idea ever or the worst idea ever? I can’t tell. And where do Porgs fit in here?
Giving the First Order an evil BB-8 is a bad idea. BB-8 is inherently cute, and painting him black does not make him any more menacing. It looks like the First Order has gotten a puppy and given him a big spiked collar to make him look intimidating. He does not.
On the other hand, the fact that his name is BB-H8 completely justifies the idea and I wholly support it with every fiber of my being. Oh, I know that Lucasfilm has decreed that his name is really BB-9E, and that BB-H8 was just a nickname people used on set. But they are wrong; his name is BB-H8, his name will always be BB-H8, and there’s literally nothing they could do to convince me otherwise. I feel the world will come around to this correct point of view.
Also, I’m down with the Porgs. A Puffin-Corgi crossover is so brilliantly, mercilessly marketable that I have to respect it. As long the Porgs don’t play a vital role in helping Luke and Rey defeat the First Order on Ach-To, or do anything other than mill around looking adorable, I’m down with ‘em.
Ego and Mania
I recently purchased Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on video. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that it holds up well to repeat viewing (I’d enjoyed in the theatre, but had been moderately critical of some narrative decisions). However, one thing still bothers me:
If Ego is the only Celestial in the MCU, how does he know that he is a Celestial? When Kirby introduced them in the comics, they had a goals that were definite but beyond human understanding. Later, writers like Jonathan Hickman gave an even more ominous cast to their purpose in the universe. But the Celestials were always presented as having an objective to their existence. Why go to the trouble of casting Ego as a Celestial, which adds little to the story and certainly doesn’t explain how he came to exist?
Let’s talk out of universe first, and the reasons why Marvel decided to call Ego a Celestial. The first is because Marvel needed a very simple reason for what Ego’s deal was, and claiming he’s a member of an ancient race of nigh-omnipotent entities is actually a lot easier for mass audiences to wrap their heads around than just saying he’s a living, sentient planet and then pretending that makes any sense. Assuming Marvel doesn’t have some sort of Celestials movie planned—which, haha, it 10,000 percent doesn’t—the name is the perfect one to represent the MCU’s more powerful entities, beings that are far beyond gods in the Thor sense, and are cosmic in nature. Plus, it’s throwing a bone to the fans, which is always nice.
As for how Ego knows what the hell a Celestial is, well, they aren’t utterly unknown in the MCU. Remember, in the first movie the Guardians went to Knowhere, which is literally inside the head of a deceased Celestial. Parts of them—metaphorically and physically—are out there, and it would make sense that legends or their legacy would survive until the present day. There are plenty of ways for people to have found out—a superpower, using the Knowledge Infinity Stone, visions of the past, other cosmic beings like the Watchers who probably get drunk at bars a lot and tell people the crazy shit they’ve seen, etc. It wouldn’t be hard, especially given a few eons of exploring across the galaxy, for Ego to discover his true identity.
I’m ashamed to admit this, but a group of post-apocalyptic hooligans stole my mailbag from me. Now I have no mail to read (or burn at night to keep warm). So if you have a question, a query, a mystery that needs answering, a problem that needs solving, or just about anything else, please feel free to email any and all of them to email@example.com!